A Crocheted Blanket for Hamlin Fistula

A couple of years ago, I started crocheting this blanket after reading Half the Sky and then learning about an organization in Ethiopia - the Hamlin Fistula - that treats women who are suffering from obstetric fistulas, a medical condition that occurs almost exclusively in developing countries as a result of poor access to health care.   In Half the Sky, the stories of women with obstetric fistulas, most often caused by prolonged labor without medical intervention but sometimes also caused by rape or sexual abuse, touched me deeply.  I found myself thinking about them all the time, and when I talked to my sister about it, she pointed me toward Hamlin Fistula

When women arrive at the hospital, often after a long journey, they are given a hospital gown and a hand-knitted or crocheted blanket.  They use the blankets on their beds but also wear them as shawls, and the blankets are theirs to keep forever.  Crocheting a blanket feels like such a small thing for such a big problem.  And yet, perhaps the best we can all do is start where we are - find a way to share our individual gifts with people who can benefit from them.  I hope that the woman who receives my blanket finds warmth in it.  And I hope that one day I will be in a position to do more for her and for all of these women.

After I finished, I discovered that they are only able to accept blankets in January and June because of storage issues where they receive mail. Since I missed the January shipment date, I'll be mailing this in June. I thought I'd pass along the information on making a blanket in case there are any other knitters or crocheters out there who would be interested in doing so before June (obviously, much faster than me). Please let me know if you do.  If you're not a knitter or crocheter but would like to donate to Hamlin Fistula, you can do so here.  And even if you're not in a position to make anything or donate, I encourage you to read about Hamlin Fistula - it is an inspiring organization. 


Rwanda: Kitenge Fabric Dress

I am not a fashion blogger.

This is because (a) I am not fashionable, and (b) I have a very hard time looking normal in posed photos. 

But this dress warrants a little fashion blogger-esque post.

Remember when I told you about my East African kitenge fabric? Back when I had just returned from Rwanda

And I told you that I had left some fabric behind so that my sister's seamstress could make me a dress? 

Well, the dress has arrived! All the way from Rwanda, and I absolutely love it.

I wore it out to the Burlington Farmers Market on Saturday and threw my arms up in a victory cheer when a girl walking by me turned and yelled over her shoulder, "love your dress!"  Score.

And it has pockets.

Double score. 

And since these pictures were taken at our farmers market surrounded by scrumptious locally grown fruits and veggies (I had a delicious fresh squeezed pear ginger kale juice from the solar-powered juice stand), I'll make an only slightly clumsy segue into telling you all about an awesome organization down in Tennessee that needs your help to win a fruit orchard. 

Plant the Seed is a not-for-profit program that uses community and school gardens as outdoor classrooms to educate and empower under-resourced young people.

It's run by a fabulous (and funny) woman named Susannah, and it's in the running for a whole orchard of fruit trees from the Edy's Communities Take Root contest.  You can read about Plant the Seed here and then head over to the Communities Take Root website and vote for Plant the Seed every day.  There's not much time left, so get over there now!

Don't you love how this post transitioned from a fashion post into one about donating money to a gardening and food security nonprofit? I told you - a fashion blogger, I am not. 


Rwanda: The Pediatrics Ward

Walking into the pediatrics ward at a rural district hospital supported by Inshuti Mu Buzima (Partners In Health), I felt uneasy, self-conscious - I didn't know how to be, what to say, what to do. I was fixated on the language barriers, on my lack of knowledge about cultural or social cues. I held back, watching my sister Hannah walk around the room, saying hello to the children and shaking the hands of the parents who stay at the hospital - day and night - with their kids.  

As my eyes skittered around the room, I realized I was looking for some sign from the people there - mostly from the parents - that it was okay that I was there, that I was doing or saying the right things, being the right way. Seeking some sort of permission from parents who were attending to their sick children was understandable, but I knew what I really wanted was for them to comfort me, to take away my uneasiness 

Hannah, on the other hand, was greeting everyone with warmth. If she had any self-consciousness, she set it aside, knowing that what was important in that moment was not her own sense of emotional comfort. Instead, she seemed secure in the knowledge that what anyone - sick or well, Rwandan or American,  young or old - wants is someone to take an interest in them, to look them in the eyes, and engage with them. It was one of the many lessons I learned from my little sister in that small village. 

Here in the US, we're inundated with pictures - of each other, of ourselves, of what we ate and where we've been. On our mantles, in our wallets, on our facebook pages. We love documenting our lives so much that we've put cameras into our cell phones so that we're never without the ability to capture a moment. There are whole sections of stores - whole stores, even - devoted to scrapbooking and websites created for the sole purpose of sharing our images with each other. 

And it's glorious. As an amateur photographer, I love it. I love carrying my camera around with me. I love posting my photos and seeing what people have to say. I love the brief glimpses into other people's lives. 

But all this photography is more than just fun. It's also evidence of an unspoken belief by all of us that what we're doing, who we are, what we're wearing today is worthy of documentation. It's worthy of remembering. It's worthy of sharing with the world. People care (or should care) about who we are and what's happening in our lives. We take it as a given.

In Rwinkwavu at the pediatrics ward, the air changed when my mom and sister took out their cameras. I hadn't brought mine because we thought my big Nikon might be disconcerting. Perhaps it would've been, but I could feel the excitement rise when the children and their parents saw the little cameras. Some ran right over and asked for their pictures to be taken. Others hung back shyly but stared under lowered eyelids hoping that one of us would notice them. 

One boy could not raise himself from his bed but whispered to his mother, who called us over so that we would take his picture. 

After each shot, we turned the camera around so that they could see their own images reflected back. Sometimes they looked uncomfortable when the camera was on them, unsure of what to do. But once we turned it around, they smiled and pointed to the screen. Children giggled and poked at each other. And then they crowded into clumps and asked for more and more. 

Every picture we took was a statement. 

Your life is important enough to be documented. 

You, in this moment, are worthy of remembering.

Your face is so precious that I want to bring an image of it home with me and share it.

There are albums and albums of images of me at my mother's house - thirty-one years of documenting and remembering and honoring my life. I am so glad for them and for the ability to keep capturing moments.

One of the greatest gifts I've ever received was the opportunity to experience these children's and parents' joy when someone showed that same interest in honoring their lives for just a few brief moments.

David, in the yellow shirt above, is in India getting a special heart surgery. Please keep him and his family in your thoughts. 

Everyone wants to be seen, documented, remembered, honored. 

There are stories being lived everywhere.


As for the pillowcases that all you wonderful folks made, they were gorgeous. We distributed about thirty of them at this ward. More were sent to children and families in a hospital in Kirehe, Rwanda. The families loved them. Many of the babies there are so tiny that the parents used the pillowcases as blankets to cover them. The older children were so happy to have received something special just for them. 

And they were all delighted to share their new treasures with the camera. 


Pillowcases: The Final Tally

Today is the day!

In just a few hours, I'll be heading to...Newark! And then I'll meet up with my mom, and we'll be off to...Brussels! And then, finally to Kigali, Rwanda!! It's one long trip - about 23 hours total. Hello cramped legs and cranky Katie.

Of course, all that will wash away as soon as I get there. I'll be so excited to see Hannah, and it'll be 8 pm in Rwanda when we arrive, so I'll get to go to bed pretty soon after.

Packing up all the pillowcases has made me positively giddy with excitement about sharing them with the kids in the pediatrics ward.

I took a photo of each pillowcase, and I put together a little digital patchwork "quilt" on Picasa. Look how beautiful they all are! 

Collage Final

I'll be arriving with 114 pillowcases. When Hannah and I first talked about the project, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get the forty that she asked for. And now just a little over a month later, I'm bringing almost three times that many. (And for those who are wondering, my two pieces of luggage are currently weighing in at a combined total of 85 pounds. About 10 pounds of that is my clothing for the trip!)

I've said it several times over the last few days, but I'm going to say it again. I am so overwhelmed by how kind you have all been by giving your time, energy, and money to make all these pillowcases and send them to me. I thank you deeply.

Though I will be mostly without a computer in Rwanda, I have prepared some posts for while I'm away. Posting will be less frequent than usual, and I won't be able to respond to comments as readily as I normally can or post updates on Facebook or Twitter. But I hope you'll still stop in! If you're not a follower on google friend connect, through email, or through an rss feed, now might be the time to sign up so that you don't miss anything!


My Pillowcase for Rwanda

my pillowcase 2
I finally got my pillowcase completed - as in one day before I leave for Rwanda. It was touch and go there for a while. I have had so much to do both to get ready for the trip and to deal with all the stuff I put off during the bar study time that I haven't known which end was up!

But after one trip to Joann Fabric to buy a coordinating fabric and trim to go with the awesome elephant print I got from Hawthorne Threads and a second trip to buy more trim since I had been silly and not measured the first time, I finally made that sucker.
my pillowcase 3

I had originally planned to make two, but we obviously weren't lacking for fabulous pillowcases, and I was short on time, so I just made the one. 

my pillowcase 4 After reading through the manual and futzing around with some of the tension settings, I got quite comfortable with my new-to-me sewing machine. She works beautifully - nice, even stitches, good pressure on the feed dogs. I like her so much that I felt it was appropriate to name her. Henceforth, she will be called Liesl in honor of The Sound of Music, where Maria made play clothes from drapes. Exactly the type of creative thinking I like. Liesl and I are taking it as a challenge to make play clothes from a bath mat. I'll keep you posted.
my pillowcase

At any rate, here's the finished product. I still adore the elephant print, and I was tickled to find such a great coordinating fabric at Joann in the clearance section! And of course, pom-poms cannot be beat. I've loved them since I was a kid, and I still do. They're just so festive.
my pillowcase 5

I hope this pillowcase will bring a smile to a child's face, just as I know all of you hope for the pillowcases you made. 

And tomorrow I'll be setting off on that journey, so check back in for some final details on the pillowcase project!


Pillowcases and Pillowcases and More Pillowcases

Forty-nine pillowcases
Yesterday I picked up the latest batch of pillowcases to bring to Rwanda this week - FORTY-NINE!

So, if you're keeping track, that brings our current total to 105. One hundred five pillowcases!

We'll have enough for all the beds and extras for when they do laundry. 
Forty-nine Pillowcases 2

In the mix were thirty-two pillowcases from my friend Beth's mom's quilting guild, from my blogger friend Kara, and - as in all the batches - from people I don't even know who just wanted to do something nice. 

And I learned from my sister that we'll be watching the cartoon Cars with the kids at the ward. I can't wait!

Let's just hope that I can fit all these pillowcases (and all the cake mixes and macaroni and cheese and snickers bars requested by the fellows) in my suitcase. 


All Things Whale

A special post today for my dear friend Sai, who is a crazy-busy attorney and devoted lover of whales. 

This week the Economist reported on a proposal floated at the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Science requesting additional rights for animals like whales and dolphins. Research continues to show that these animals have extremely high degrees of intelligence and even - the part that's really amazing to me - self-awareness. You know I think Jammer's awesome, but the dude cannot recognize himself in a mirror, like some of these animals can. They also have complex cultural structures, from feeding rituals to vocal communication. Nothing was decided at the meeting, but the request certainly raises interesting ethical and philosophical questions. If you read over that article and thought to yourself, "Whales! They're totally people too!," then I've pulled together a few whale-loving treasures for you.

With this vintage educational chart hanging on your wall, you would not only share your whale-loving-ness with everyone who saw it, you'd be well prepped for any future whale discussions.

Want your little one to grow up loving whales too? This whale mobile is just the thing.

If you're a nature lover who cheers for the predator when he catches the prey, then this graphic art print may delight your Darwinian heart. 

Perhaps you'd like to have a little something shiny as a daily reminder of the whale's majestic beauty. This whale tail necklace is lovely, but more than that, 15% of the proceeds benefit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

And if you've always wanted to curl up with a whale, then this vintage-style whale pillow is the next best thing.

For those of you who want to make a direct contribution to whales, there are many, many organizations  focused on whale conservation. Below, I've included links to just a few of the programs that allow you to "adopt" a whale. You can, of course, just make a donation, but these adoption kits make great gifts, especially for children who are learning about marine life and conservation.

Adopt a Blue Whale with the World Wildlife Foundation
Adopt a Whale through the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
Adopt a Whale with Save the Whales
Adopt an Orca through the Whale Museum in the San Juan Islands 
Adopt a Whale with the Bar Harbor Whale Museum 
Adopt a Whale with the Oceanic Society
Adopt a Whale with the Pacific Whale Foundation
Adopt a Whale with the Whale Center of New England

I encourage you to do some research if you don't know much about whales. They are truly fascinating creatures. A quick search on youtube will bring up tons of great videos of whales interacting with each other and with other species. And if I know Sai, check back in the comments later for some of her thoughts.

And of course, I'll be heading out to see Big Miracle very soon. Whales and Drew Barrymore? Come on. 


The Motherload

Well thank goodness that's over!  I missed you guys!

It'll be a short one as I'm still trying to get my life in order. After moving and then spending three weeks saying "that can wait til we're finished," the now-that-we're-finished list is kind of long!

But one of the things on it was going to check on the ol' po box to see if any new pillowcases had arrived. And boy, had they.


As you see, they had to give me a fancy container so I could get them all home!

And from these packages, I pulled FORTY-SEVEN pillowcases. Did you get that? Forty-seven!
DSC_0006 Which brings us to a whopping 56. And I know more are on the way.

They have arrived from family and friends, from fellow bloggers like Jess of Tiny Leaf Studios, and Caitlin, who corralled several of the other gals at Spoonflower to put together some absolutely adorable ones. And I've received many from folks who know nothing about me except that I'm taking these to Rwanda, and they wanted to help. 

That's all for today, but I'll keep you posted on the pillowcases and of course on the other domestic things I'm excited to get back to!

As always, thank you for reading.


First batch of pillowcases!

I headed over to the post office this morning to see if any pillowcases had arrived. I was preparing myself on the drive over for an empty po box so that I wasn't disappointed, but lo and behold, there were SIX packages waiting for me.  PackagesPillowcases are coming in from all over the United States.  Today I brought home the work of crafters from Missouri, Tennessee, New Jersey, Ohio, California, and Kentucky.  And I know more will be rolling in over the next few weeks.

First Batch If you haven't yet contacted me about making pillowcases (via facebook, email, text, or in the comments section), we will have enough pillowcases this time. However, I have definitely taken note of how excited people have been to jump into this project, and I hope to bring you other similar projects in the future. For now, head over to  Craft Hope to see if there's a project there that could utilize your crafty skills. For those who have already contacted me, keep 'em coming!

My own pillowcase-making will likely have to wait until after the bar (Feb. 28), but I'll definitely give you guys a little show when I get mine completed.

Thank you again to all of you who have sent in pillowcases and to all who are working on them. Your work is so very appreciated!
First Batch 2

Crochet Neverending Work in Progress

Afghan 1

I mentioned yesterday in my crochet tutorial post that I am the slowest crocheter in the world. I challenge anyone to try to prove me wrong. 

In support of my case, I present you the afghan that I've been crocheting since April of last year.  Of course, in all honesty, I haven't been crocheting every moment of every day since then.  I mean, I've slept and eaten and gone to the bathroom.  And I guess I've worked and moved twice and taken the dog for walks and gone on vacation.  And started planning a wedding and blogged. Okay fine. I haven't actually been crocheting that much since I started it, but even so, when I am crocheting, it's the slowest crocheting out there.

Part of the hold-up is that I have a problem following directions. I started making this afghan to send to the Hamlin Fistula Relief and Aid Fund. I was planning to make a giant granny square blanket, but then after getting about 30 rows into it, I realized that they actually wanted rectangular blankets instead of square ones (though they've now modified the directions to include square blankets).  So I had to come up with a new plan, preferably without backtracking on the work that I'd already done.

What I came up with was a plan to make four smaller granny squares to put on the ends of the larger square I had already completed.

Afghan 2 I attached the smaller squares to each other using the invisible joining method, and I'll use the same method to attach the smaller squares to the large square. Then I'll crochet a border all the way around.

And then I'll block that sucker to try to straighten things out a bit. It'll be my first time blocking anything, and I'm a little nervous about how it will all work. But it's definitely necessary for this blanket, since it's gotten all wonky and will likely get more so as I attach the smaller squares.

Of course, none of this will happen while I'm studying for the bar, but once I take the exam (on Feb 28), I suspect I could complete the blanket in about six episodes of Downton Abbey (the best way to mark time).  So hopefully I'll be sending off a completed blanket this year. And then it'll be time to start on one of the projects I posted yesterday for the next year or two.

Do you have a craft project you've been working on for ages?


Pillowcases for Rwanda: An Update Plus a Dye Idea

I am so overwhelmed by and supremely grateful for the wonderful response my sister Hannah and I have gotten to our project to outfit the pediatrics ward in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda with lots of cheerful pillowcases.  Every time I get another email, I do a little cheer for the children in the ward.  Thank you for joining in and giving your time and energy and particularly for sharing the project with your friends and family.

I want to give a special thanks to Bonnie over at Wonderfully Awkward, who has been quite the cheerleader for us, sending me encouraging emails and tweets while she shared my project not only with her facebook and twitter followers but also with Craft Gossip, leading to the project getting its own post on that site.  So a special thank you also to Anne from Craft Gossip.  I've gotten a number of emails just since the post went up last night!

I can't wait until all those pillowcases start arriving!

And yesterday, I got a little package of fabric in the mail from Hawthorne Threads that is going to make one fabulous pillowcase!


I saw the fabric (Marrakech in Artisian by Valori Wells) used in a project online, and I knew I had to have it.  Isn't it gorgeous?  I got a shipment notice basically seconds after I ordered it, and my package came the very next day.  I was quite impressed with the service at Hawthorne Threads.  I'll definitely be using them in the future, and they have a great selection if anyone is looking for fabric.  I still want to pick up some ribbon and accent fabrics for mine.

And for those of you who aren't big into sewing but are interested in dying some pillowcases, I came across this really cool tutorial the other day.  If you haven't made yours yet, this might be a fun idea.

The Art Girl Jackie has a project for dying t-shirts (or pillowcases!) with sharpies and rubbing alcohol, two things you might already have at home.  She completed the project with her daughter, and I'd say the results are pretty cheerful!


Thank you again to all of those who are making pillowcases.  I can't wait to share them with the children at the pediatrics ward!


Pillowcases for Good

Hannah with another PIH fellow in front of the hospital
As you may already know, my little sister is in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda right now on a fellowship with Partners in Health.  She deals primarily with management and dissemination of necessary pharmaceuticals and medical commodities to rural facilities, but she's also been doing some volunteering in the Rwinkwavu District Hospital Pediatric Ward.  The ward itself is kind of somber in terms of decorations, and Hannah thought it might be fun to spruce it up a bit for the kids.  I'm heading to Rwanda in March, so she asked me if I could sew and bring forty bright and cheerful pillowcases.  I told her that, because I was moving and now studying for the bar, I wasn't really in a position to sew forty pillowcases.  BUT, I told her, I can definitely sew a few, and I bet there are some crafty bloggers and friends out there who would love to join in and make some pillowcases for the children in the Rwinkwavu pediatrics ward.

Though I can't post pictures of the children in the ward, I thought I'd include some photos from Hannah's time in Rwinkwavu and some of the happy, healthy kids she's met there.  Hannah is nothing if not a lover of children.

Hannah and kids

Hannah with baby
Hannah with little boy
Hannah teaching
Hannah also volunteer tutors for a standardized test that's in English

So, on to the actual pillowcases.  Hannah's looking for bright and cheerful standard-size pillowcases, gender neutral as much as possible, and without any specific cartoon characters, cowboys and indians, or guns. I've included links to a bunch of tutorials showing how to sew your own pillowcases and to get those ideas flowing.

Tutorial from The Cottage Home

Tutorial from Wonderfully Awkward

Tutorial from You Go Girl 
Tutorial from Film in the Fridge

Tutorial from J Caroline Creative

Tutorial from Made

Tutorial from Sara vs Sarah

It's a really simple project, perfect for beginners!  

Also, my mom pointed out that it could also be fun to buy standard  pillowcases and decorate them with fabric paints or even applique fabrics onto them.  She may invite friends over to decorate the pillowcases together, which I think is a fabulous idea!

If you'd like to send pillowcases (even one would be appreciated!), then shoot me an email at ktmadeblog (at) gmail (dot) com so that I can get a sense of how many I'll be getting.  When your pillowcases are complete, just send them along to:

P.O. Box 5313
Burlington, VT 05402-5313

I will be leaving for Rwanda on March 8th, so please get your pillowcases to me by March 6th, when I'll make one last run to the post office.

Please pass this along to your friends and fellow bloggers, and feel free to post about it on your blog if you have one.  I'd love to show up in Rwinkwavu with enough pillowcases for every child in the pediatrics ward.

So excited to have this opportunity to share our crafting love!